2005 Report Summary: Committee on Understanding Child Abuse from the Perspectives of Child Advocacy
In 2000, the law on preventing child abuse was enacted (and later amended in 2004) in response to the increased societal concerns on the matter of child abuse. In spite of various efforts done to alleviate the problem especially through the leadership of local public child agencies, the number of child abuse cases continued to grow, reaching in 2004 three times larger number of consulting cases compared to that of before the enactment of the law. In order to strengthen the preventing measures taken in community, child and family support centers have been built and the establishment of network councils, which aim to facilitate collaboration among related agencies, are encouraged. In addition, teachers and school personnel now have obligations both to make efforts on identifying the risk of child abuse in its early stage and to report such cases to appropriate agencies; thus bearing increasingly important roles on preventing child abuse. While such efforts are nothing to be denied, there are important points that are missing in current discussions on child abuse.
First, it does not reflect the voices of children themselves. Second, the law defines "child abuse" narrowly. Although the law defines "child abuse" as physical, psychological, or sexual abuse and neglect done by the child's family, relatives, or those who live with the child, children face such risks not necessarily at home. It is quite possible that abuse takes place in other various places in which a child spends time. Especially there is always a risk of child abuse in such places as childcare centers, preschools, and schools where children spend as much time as they do at home. Taking these into consideration, the law's defining of child abuse as a phenomenon to take place at home lacks validity and ignores the reality of children's lives. This report questions such discussions on "child abuse,"cautions the limitations of current preventive measures, and re-examines the issue from the perspectives of child advocacy.
The study involved conducting surveys and hearings to inquire about the current situations of child abuse as well as the measures taken in concrete terms, particularly the cases of child abuse known to and measures employed by schools. Based on the information gathered, and grounding on the importance of respecting a child as a fully-fledged human being, we presented recommendations on how teachers and other school personnel should think about child abuse and on what they need to do in order to ensure the best benefit of the child.
The table of contents of the report is as follows:
I. Current situations of child abuse
II. Child abuse and schools: Current situations, measures taken, and challenges faced
III. Re-examining the issue of child abuse from the perspective of child advocacy
IV. Support from the perspective of child advocacy
V. Progressive examples within and outside of Japan
[Recommendations for the school personnel]
- To be the child's supporter - Start from listening to the child. Communicate the child that s/he is irreplaceable. Do not rush; take time to face with the child. Tell the child that you are always on his/her side.
- To make it easy on yourself - Do not try to do everything all by yourself. Look for outside resources.
- To be alert and attentive - Learn about child abuse. Reflect on your own actions and language you use to ensure that you have not become an abuser yourself. Use network not for surveillance but to support children. Have the perspective of social work.
- To involve the community - Build places in community for supporting children. Utilize social workers as a partner to the child, family, and school personnel.